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Iron Bars a Cage

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Eve hesitated outside of Erin's dorm, she could sense the upperclassman on the other side of the wooden door, and could tell that she was alone but still she gave pause. They hadn't really spoken about Singularity since she was rescued-arrested from the hellhole that was Anti-Earth and the young Martel was a little worried that Erin wouldn't want to have anything to do with her damaged counterpart. In truth, a small part of Eve wasn't certain she should have anything to do with Singularity, but that was a very small part. A larger part told her that she had an obligation to help the psychically abused teen.

The telepath shook her head, clearing away her doubts and worries and knocked.

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"Come on in," came Erin's voice from inside the room. Opening the door, Eve found the older girl laying on her bunkbed, propped up on her elbows with a physics study guide open in front of her. Oliver had curled up on the small of her back like a lazy orange puddle, looking quite comfortable indeed. He raised his head when Eve entered, blinking a greeting at her. "Hi Eve," Erin said, looking over. "What's up?" The room looked different today than usual, most of Alex's things were packed into boxes for the upcoming move, and it made the place look bare.

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The telepath casually waved at her friend and Oliver as she worked her face into a faint smile. --I'm heading to Blackstone,-- Eve said without preamble, deciding that just laying everything out was probably the best course of action. She closed the door behind her and leaned against it, watching Erin for a reaction. --I have a car waiting downstairs, but I thought you should come too. If you want, well, there is plenty of time to change though I'm going as is.--

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A shadow passed over Erin's face, and she pursed her lips before saying anything. Oliver rose from his somnolence, stepping down from his perch and nuzzling Erin's arm for a moment before retreating to the top bunk. The path he chose involved hopping onto the dresser, drawing Erin's attention momentarily to her remaining mementos, the picture of her parents and the pink music box. Whether that was deliberate on his part or just a coincidence, who could say?

Erin sighed and rolled to sit up. "I should come with you," she told Sage. "You'll probably make her uncomfortable, I can be there to maybe mediate or something. They've let me come see her, guess they figure since I put her in there, I'm not likely to bust her out. Give me a couple minutes to get my uniform on."

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Eve inclined her head and slipped out of the dorm, waiting patiently for Erin to change. While she waited she pondered what her friend said, and had to admit that Erin was right. It wasn't just likely that Eve's telepathic contact would upset Singularity, with the considerable abuse she suffered at the hand and mind of Pathos, it was a certainty. Still, Erin agreed to come with her, and that made her more optimistic about the endeavor.

Eve thanked Erin, now wearing the mantle of Wander, for agreeing to come with her as the pair exited the dormitory and discreetly slipped into the waiting limo.

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Despite the circumstances, Erin found it hard not to be amused by riding in the limo, which while not as retro-cool as Trevor's vintage model, was certainly more than comfortable. Maybe if she had to live in a car, she'd ask Eve if she could borrow this one, she mused privately when she didn't think the telepath was looking. The irreverent thought helped distract her from the discomfort of going to see her double again. She'd visited Blackstone once since bringing her counterpart over and putting her away, and knew she owed another visit. Didn't mean she was going to enjoy it. "What do you plan to do?" she asked Eve as the long car zoomed along the roads to Lonely Point.

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It was a few minutes before Eve answered, during which time she gazed out of the heavily tinted window. --I'm not entirely sure,-- she finally admitted, looking back at Wander, looking a bit embarrassed. --Talk to her, get her to trust me, and reverse the mental tampering she suffers from.-- Eve frowned rubbing the bridge of her nose. --I don't expect this to be resolved quickly. But I owe her. After what my kind did to her, it needs to be fixed.--

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Erin frowned. "Trevor's not here, so I'm gonna channel him for a second, just to remind you that none of those people were your kind. You and Psyche would never, ever do what we know the psychics there have done. You're not responsible for them, and nothing they did reflects on you, any more than it's my fault that Singularity spent years as a murder weapon." She sighed. "But with that said, anything you can do to help would be good. They still can't take the nullifier cuff off her without risking her trying to smash herself through the wall or the forcefield the first time something scares her. Somebody has to reach her."

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Eve made a noncommittal noise as she shrugged, not willing to argue about her perceived obligation, there was nothing either of them could say to the other that would change an opinion and so it was best to let it drop. --That's my hope. At the very least maybe just knowing that there are people outside that care for her would be of some help and comfort.-- Eve was in total agreement with regard to the nullifier; until Singularity wasn't a danger to herself and others, she would have to be suppressed.

The limo past drove past the Naval Station and turned at a sign that read Integrated Research Center and entered, unhindered, through several layers of a highly visible heavy security presence. They drove past several low, black marble and dark windowed buildings toward the back of the facility. --The majority of the site is underground,-- Eve said suddenly, gesturing at the outside.

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Erin looked around the facility with interest, observing the security all around them. It was nothing compared to Blackstone, of course, and was a little closer to, say, ArcheTech, but it was nevertheless impressive. "This is your family's deal, right?" she asked Eve. "They own all this stuff, and a bunch more besides?" She paused for a moment when the limo drew to a halt. "How are we planning on getting out to the island?" she thought belatedly to ask. "You have an appointment, right? They're pretty nervy about people just showing up, for good reason. I guess I could probably make the jump, from the furthest point on the mainland."

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Wander heard the answer to her last question before Eve did, but not by much as a helicopter rushed overhead, circled, and then settled onto a section of the helipad they were parked on. The helicopter was a dark navy blue and aside from the white registration number, devoid of any flashy insignia. In truth it all but resembled a military grade aircraft with the exception that it lacked any exterior hard points for munitions. --This is our Biosafety Level 4 facility on the east coast,-- Eve told Erin as she guided her to the now open side door to their transport. --Infectious diseases, xenobiology even synthetic bioengineering. We came here because it's the closest private heliport to Blackstone. Probably could have teleported in like we did last time but I had this visit arranged as a Martel, not Sage.--

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Erin stopped in her tracks when Eve explained the purpose of the facility, going entirely still as she looked around at the shuttered, low-slung buildings with their subterranean secrets. A long moment passed as she lost what little color she ever had, then she shuddered once, violently, and climbed into the helicopter. Even with her powers muted for politeness' sake, Eve could feel the sudden swell of fear and revulsion in Erin's mind, battled ruthlessly back under a wall of control. "Let's not come this way next time!" she told Eve, raising her voice over the noise of the chopper.

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As they settled into their jump seats and strapped in, Eve gave her friend a concerned look, snowy eyebrow raised in silent inquiry. Erin's physical reaction was plain enough that when combined with the surge of emotion in dark-haired friends mind gave the telepath the impression that something was seriously wrong. Eve searched her memory for something, anything, that might provide a clue as to what it could be but came up empty. Whatever it was that bothered Erin, Eve owed her an apology for exposing her to it. The Martel heiress nodded in assent to Wander's simple request. --Of course.--

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Erin made no acknowledgement of Eve's curiosity, but by the time they'd completed the very short flight, she was back in control and seemingly entirely normal again. Even with most of the facility underground, the facade of Blackstone Prison loomed imposingly over them as they stood on the landing pad outside. Double-manned guard towers dotted the facility, all of them equipped with sufficient armament to stop a fleeing supervillain, and surveillance cameras were everywhere.

As the pilot shut down the copter, an armed guard wearing the black uniform of the prison approached, carrying a clipboard and a small scanner. "Eve Martel and Wander?" he asked. "I need your palmprint and retina scans, please." When those were taken via the little portable machine, he nodded and led them into the prison.

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The pair where escorted by a small cadre of guards down familiar corridors, past numerous guard stations and checkpoints and each step made the young Martel nervous. --So, have you visited her since she was placed here? If so, how is her mental state?-- Eve asked both out of curiosity and an attempt to distract herself from the feeling that she was out of her depth. She cast a sidelong glance at her friend when she made her inquiry, hoping to gain some insight before they arrived at Singularity's cell.

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I came back two days after we left her here, Wander replied, carefully forming the words and letting them sit in her mind for Sage to see. It was good practice, and it seemed odd to hold one half of a conversation around the silent, listening guards. I wanted to see how she was settling in. Some good, some bad. They'd sedated her to give her a medical check and clean her up, change her clothes, and she didn't take that well. But she doesn't seem to mind being locked up that much. She recognized me and didn't charge the gates, that's something.

For all the security they had to go through on the way, once they were in the elevator that would take them under the ground, it moved quite quickly. Erin swallowed once as her ears popped, and watched the guards doing the same thing. They moved from the elevator to a small alcove almost like an airlock. Once the elevator doors closed behind them, the doors in front of them opened, making a loud beeping noise. "Visitors on the floor," one of the guards called as they walked out into the corridor. "Being surprised makes her really upset," Wander explained to Sage. "They make noise when they're coming to check on her." The noise seemed to bother the mysterious inmate behind the metal shield, if the muffled curses were any indication, but they walked on past that cell, past the still-empty cell across the way, and down to the third in the row.

Thanks to the warning, Singularity was at the barrier waiting for them, a curious look on her sallow face. She no longer wore the red and black jumpsuit of the Young Imperials, but instead the powder blue coveralls that designated a mentally ill prisoner at Blackstone. She had no shoes, just thick blue socks, and the nullifier cuff around one arm. There were faint bruises on her face and neck, and more recent ones on the arm and hand with the cuff, but she was clean and looked alert. She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes as she watched them approach, looking as though she was trying to place them.

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The white haired telepath took a deep breath and a half step forward, nodding a greeting to Singularity. The psychic favored the caged powerhouse with a smile before gently establishing the mental link that would allow her to communicate while still maintaining her link with Wander; whatever Eve had to say to Singularity would be shared with her friend. --Good afternoon, Erin,-- Eve said,--My name is Eve. How are you doing today?--

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Singularity stiffened visibly the moment the link was established, her eyes widening and her breath coming faster. "No," she whispered, a sentiment echoed as the predominant overwhelming thought in her head. She looked wildly at the young women outside the field, then up and around in every direction, as though she could make out who was sending thoughts into her head just by looking hard enough. She stumbled backwards a few steps, graceless in a way Erin rarely was, and rubbed her knuckles against her temples. "No, no, no,no...."

Wander stepped forward, carefully avoiding touching the field. It's okay," she attempted to assure her double. "It's not Pathos. Pathos is gone. This is Eve, and she wants to help you feel better." Singularity continued shaking her head, projecting disbelief and fear over Eve's mental link. As she retreated further into the cell, they could see that additions had been made since her arrival, a small television screen, a pile of thin books, some basic toiletries. It wasn't much, but the place did look less sparse.

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"What was I thinking, coming here?" Eve asked herself, sinking to the ground as Singularity's fear, disbelief and repeated denials surged through the mental link. It was a rhetorical question of course; Eve knew exactly what she came here for, to try and repair the broken mirror of her friend. And with all the tampering Singularity-Erin suffered at the hands of Pathos it really was no surprise to Eve that she was reacting this way to telepathic contact, and yet she had hoped. She had hoped that if she approached Erin in an open, friendly manner she could gain her trust. She had hoped that she wouldn't have to resort to ripping apart the feeble mental barriers that Singularity could erect, and forcibly calm her just so she could have a conversation.

She had hoped.

The fear continued to surge through the link, the vocal and mental denials raged unabated, and the young Martel's confidence that she could win through this reasonably withered and died. Eve sat on the ground with her eyes closed and whispered, "Shut up."

Her head snapped up and she glared at the mewling facsimile of her Erin, and snarled, "Shut up!" The telepath surged to her feet, took another half step toward the cell and screamed with mind and voice, "SHUT UP!"

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The sudden spike in emotion seemed to galvanize Singularity. The frightened muttering escalated into a wordless shrieking as she was suddenly able to put a face to the voice in her mind. Even as the guards reached for their weapons, she flung herself at the invisible barrier, which caught her and launched her backwards into the cell with a loud electric sizzle. The mad prisoner landed hard on the floor, hard enough that it took her a minute to sit up again. Even then she looked a little stunned.

Wander watched the whole interchange in open-mouthed astonishment, not even reacting till it was all over. For all her super-fast reflexes, sometimes her brain just couldn't catch up. "What the hell was that?" she demanded, looking from Sage to Singularity and back. "I thought you couldn't even talk!"

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For the moment Eve ignored her friend, fists clenched at her side as she glared at Singularity. "I'm trying to help you," she snarled, too caught up in her anger to realize she was speaking for the first time in over two years. "I want to help you! I want to fix everything that Pathos subjected you to Erin." The telepath pointed a finger at Singularity, still sitting stunned on the floor of her cell, and her voice grew softer, "You are better than this, Erin. This thing that you were twisted into? It isn't you. Please, let me help you."

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Singularity sat on the floor of her cell, her head spinning, her body aching. Falling on the floor never used to hurt so much before she came here. Now everything hurt, all because of the bad handcuff! That wasn't her current problem though. She flinched when the not-Pathos telepath girl yelled at her, drawing in on herself and groping blindly with one hand for the bear that had tumbled off her bunk at the impact. Kneading it in her hands, she glared sullenly at the telepath, fully aware that she could do nothing to stop what was going to happen, but nonetheless entertaining thoughts of what she would do if she were free, if she weren't so sick and weak.

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"I... I'm sorry," Eve said quietly as her frustration leeched out of her, a faint mental echo accompanying her words as she spoke via mouth and mind. She felt terrible for yelling at Erin, for losing her temper. Eve knew it wasn't Singularity's fault that she reacted that way, and she also knew she was incredibly unfair to the girl. "If she only knew," the telepath mused to herself, "If she could just... oh."

A curious look crossed Eve's face as she regarded the prisoner. As before the psychic consolidated her willpower and deepened the mental rapport with Singularity, but this time instead of taking from the woman's mind... she gave. Eve shared with Singularity her anger at Pathos' depredations laced with a profound sense of sorrow. She shared with the alternate Erin her deep seated desire to help her be free of her torments, and her shame at having yelled at her. And lastly, she shared with Erin the hope that one day she will be free of any cage. There was no coercion in the sharing, no desire or intent to force Singularity to do anything, only concern.

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Singularity moaned and covered her head with her arms, fisting her hands in her short-cropped hair as she fought the intrusion into her mind. Her barriers were completely ineffective, just as before, and Sage's thoughts, emotions, desires flooded her consciousness. She rocked back and forth, tears trickling down her face, but at least the contact didn't bring further retreat or violence.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Wander asked dubiously, rocking back and forth on her heels in a subdued mimicry of her double's behavior. "I mean... do you think it's going to help?" She was still very thrown by Eve starting to talk out of nowhere, but tried to keep her focus on the task at hand, disturbing as it was.

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Eve shrugged, looking helplessly at Wander. "I hope so," she murmured. "In order to help her, she needs to trust me. The last thing I want to do is harm her. I look at her and I see you, so I know what a force for good she can be." The telepath shook her head, short white hair fanning out slightly. "But Erin doesn't have the advantage I have. I know when people are being false, when their thoughts and their words to not synchronize. But now... now she sees my mind as I see those around me. She can see, for herself, the truth of my intentions."

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